Report on Candidate for Fellowship, American Academy in Rome

Jordan Massee, 1972

I am delighted to recommend Raphael Collazo unreservedly, both as a person and as an artist. Although he is a personal friend, I would like to make clear the fact that the friendship grew out of my admiration for his work, which I knew before I knew him.

His most characteristic qualities as a person are, I would say, intense devotion and loyalty to the people he likes, unusual tolerance, a lively curiosity that is not in the least limited to art, and a probing mind. He reads a great deal and likes to seek out everything he can find on a given subject or personality that has struck his fancy. He loves the work of Carravagio, Watteau, Lautrec, Matisse, Georgia O'Keefe -- to name just a few that come to mind -- and sees nothing incompatible between them. His tastes are genuinely catholic, to a degree I find quite rare in his generation. I should have mentioned generosity among his qualities, the most characteristic of all. He is restless, physically as well as mentally, but in a way that I regard as a virtue, especially in a young artist. No one can be around him very long without being struck by his unusual sensibilities. Indeed, it seems to me, that all of his responses, as reflected in his art, arise from an unique combination of sensibilities -- which is not to say that they are without emotion or lacking sound intellectual principles. The rarest of these sensibilities is a sense of humor that is utterly unlike any other that I have ever encountered. It is the humor of a Mozart, not a Rabelais, but it is not whimsy, and almost never fey.

His drawings in particular make an immediate appeal, but almost defy analysis. The quality of humor in the drawings is very elusive indeed. Many artists have influenced his style, but what is remarkable is the degree to which these influences are assimilated. His latest oils, for me, represent his most original and advanced work -- advanced in the sense of achievement. When I first met Raphael, all of his best work was in oil. Then came a long period when drawing absorbed his greatest interest, to the degree that his oils at that time seemed less successful, certainly less indicative of the rapid changes that were occurring within him. Within these last few months he has returned to oil painting with an ease of accomplishment that is startling. I say "returned" when actually he never stopped painting oils; I should say the emphasis, and consequent solution of artistic problems, shifted back to oils.

Last January Raphael asked me to write a few words about his work for the announcement of a one-man show held at the Galeria Santiago in San Juan. This I was glad to do since I could in all sincerity praise the pictures to be shown. Since he may not have sent you the announcement I am taking the liberty of enclosing one. There is nothing that I said then that I would not say now. His subsequent work only seems to me to vindicate the high opinion of his talent I held then.

Although Raphael has been to Italy, I think the opportunity to live and study there would be of incalculable benefit at this stage of development. We are told on all sides that this is where it is happening, but even if that is true the most sensitive artist needs the perspective, as well as the nourishment Rome has to offer. Especially the timelessness, or continuity.

I hope I have not gone on at too great a length -- like the man who asked for an ice -- and had delivered the top of Mt. Blanc, but I have great faith in this young man's talent and would like to see him obtain every possible advantage in its development. He's had all the disadvantages artists are said to require; now he needs the advantages. The talent is there, believe me.


Report on Candidate for Fellowship, American Academy in Rome, New York, January 30, 1972.